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December 12, 2009

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China economic signs: Up, up, up

China's economy came on strong in November, with soaring industrial production, rising investment, steady retail sales and an improvement in trade.

Consumer prices rose slightly after months of declines.

Analysts said the better-than-expected performance paved the way for a stable growth next year. They said public confidence has strengthened since the government pledged to keep easy policies in place.

"The November data again beat our expectations," said Li Maoyu, an analyst at Changjiang Securities Co. "The accelerating growth in industry production and surprising improvement in trade are very encouraging."

Manufacturing output gained 19.2 percent last month from a year earlier. That was greater than the 16.1 percent increase in October, the National Bureau of Statistics said yesterday.

China's exports, the sector hit hardest by the global economic slowdown, declined 1.2 percent on an annual basis to US$113.6 billion last month. It compared with a drop of 13.8 percent a month earlier, according to the General Administration of Customs.

Imports staged a surprising comeback by rising 26.7 percent to US$94.5 billion last month after tumbling 6.4 percent in October.

The trade surplus thus fell to US$19.1 billion in November from October's US$24 billion.

"The growth of imports is in line with the surge of domestic industrial production, and exports are expected to increase this month after overseas demand is quickly restored," said Xue Jun, an analyst at CITIC Securities Co. But he also warned that escalating trade disputes could be a big drag on the trade outlook.

Wang Qing, a Morgan Stanley economist, said investment and domestic consumption, major drivers of the economy since exports dropped, had shown sustainable growth momentum in recent months.

"China's growth model is generally sound at present and will lead the country to deliver a balanced development next year with muted inflationary pressures," Wang said.

"In light of the latest desired developments, we predict the risk of premature policy tightening will be limited, while the resumption of the yuan appreciation will be unlikely to happen until the second half of next year."

Urban fixed-asset investment in the first 11 months swelled 32.1 percent year on year to 16.8 trillion yuan ($2.45 trillion).

Retail sales advanced 15.8 percent from a year earlier to 1.13 trillion yuan last month, a bit less than the growth of 16.2 percent in October but still indicating a fast expansion.

The Consumer Price Index, the main gauge of prices, rose in November after drops in nine straight months. It edged up an annualized 0.6 percent last month, compared with a reduction of 0.5 percent in October.

The Producer Price Index, the factory-gate measure of inflation, also declined at a slower pace, 2.1 percent, in November, better than the retreat of 5.8 percent in October.

Reacting to China's encouraging economic performance, Moody's Investors Service changed China's ratings outlook to positive from stable last month, while the World Bank raised its prediction for China's growth this year to 8.4 percent from 6.2 percent made in June.


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